2020 Election Op-Eds Opinion

Maisto: Presidential debates are back to normal? Not quite

Nichole Maisto

The third and final Presidential debate, though not a total 180 from their first, resembled moderately what civil politics used to look like. President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, took the stage at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee and set their opposing visions of America if they are elected this term. 

First and foremost, both candidates at this point in the race know who their audience is, and without influence of personal opinion, did what they needed to do to keep that demographic on their side. If there was any swaying, it was low; not only because both candidates stuck to their scripts, if you will, but because of the extremity of this election. Over 40 million Americans have already voted.

The reasoning behind the demeanor of this debate changing is based on a variety of reasons; beginning with the mic mute. For the first debate on September 29, there was no mute button available for the committee and therefore both candidates continuously went over time and interrupted each other, as well as the moderator Fox News’ Chris Wallace. Though going over their times did continue throughout the final debate, the moderator NBC News’ Kristen Welker seemed to have a better handle on the candidates, and if she didn’t, their microphones were muted. 

However, it would be naive to say that the mute feature was the key factor in the change of demeanor. The best way to put it would be much like getting yelled at by your parents for doing something bad on the playground. I believe the candidates and mainly President Trump, whose disposition swayed significantly from his consistent act, was yelled at by his team. After his remarks following the last debate, where he believed he won but was criticized by his own advisors, he admitted that he could tone it down a bit, which I believe if anything he accomplished. 

Though he was repeatedly accused of being a “typical politician” giving standard answers, former Vice President Biden held his ground when speaking directly to the American people and attempting to not lose control throughout the antics. Besides closing statements, in which both candidates were asked to address those that didn’t vote for them as if they were at their inauguration, during which President Trump paid no mind to address those at home, an important question was asked that was answered substantially differently by each – “Can you understand why Black parents give their children “the talk” about how to handle encounters with law enforcement?” 

Due to the high and heavy racial tensions amid us as a country throughout this presidency and especially 2020, I believe the majority of the American people (myself included) were hoping to see some type of empathy and acknowledgement from the two white men on stage. 

President Trump’s response, stating he has done more for the African American community ever, maybe holding an exception for Abraham Lincoln, and stating probably his boldest statement of the night “I’m the least racist person in this room.” and going onto criticize Biden for his partaking in a crime bill from the 1990’s. 

Vice President Biden shot back “Abraham Lincoln here is one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history. This guy has a dog whistle as big as a fog horn.” Though I do believe that Biden focused more on speaking directly to the American people as opposed to President Trump, the debate was much more a competition to discredit the others’ past, rather than focus on their futures, as well as ours. 

Speaking of our future, the main difference between the two candidates if anything was ultimately made clear last night, the presence or absence of a concrete plan backed up by facts, outlines, or even simply an idea in process. Something that the Trump administration has been hammered for – while making optimistic claims that there will be a vaccine by 2021 for the COVID-19 outbreak, or a new healthcare plan that we have yet to see during the past four years, or an economic comeback. 

While the Biden administration has shown their strengths in terms of detailed and vigorous plans on policy, they have also been met with backlash from President Trump and his supporters asking why Vice President Biden didn’t get these things done during his 47 years in politics. My answer to that: he wasn’t the President. 

With 11 days now left until the most unprecedented election during the most unforeseeable year, it is safe to say that our country’s well being and our futures are in the hands of the American people. 

Photo: Dallas Morning News

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